Hooking up Guitar FX Pedals To Keyboards

Even though the modern keyboards can come with a range of in-built FX, plugging your keyboard to FX pedals made originally for guitars can be a great way of achieving amazing sounds…

Ladytrons Reuben Wu playing his keyboards

Ladytron's Reuben Wu playing his keyboards

Many well-known, professional artists (such as international electro-rock stars Ladytron, above) often choose to hook up their keyboards (nevermind if vintage analogue, or brand new) to FX pedals. Why? Even when your modern, high-spec keyboard comes with built-in FX, it’s still more interesting, more versatile and more convenient to plug a keyboard to one or more FX pedals…specially when playing live, when you can easily swicth the effect on and off or change the paramaters quickly, on the go.

The Leslie Rotating Speaker

One of the most famous keyboards of the golden era of rock’n’roll, in the sixties, was the Hammond organ. And what made it so famous wasn’t just its tone, but the sound it made when plugged to its speaker cab – the famous Leslie Rotating Speaker.

Guitarists were so fascinated by the sound, that they started to plug their guitars to Leslie speakers – the result can be heard in many classic records by bands such as The Beatles, Cream, Jimi Hendrix Experience and so on…the list is truly enourmous!

Today, Leslie speakers are hard to find and extremely expensive, but thankfully, there are several FX pedals that faithfully re-create the famous Leslie sound, Those pedals, not surprisiingly, are sought after not just by guitarists, but by keyboard players who want to spice up their keyboard sound with some vintage goodness.

The best Leslie simulator pedal is, by far, the Hughes & Kettner Tube Rotoshphere…which is the choice of 9 out of 10 famous artists who want a Leslie sound but don’t want to take the massive speaker on tour. It can be found on pedalboards of people like Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Franz Ferdinand and others. For keyboard players looking for the perfect Leslie sound, the Hughes & Kettner Tube Rotoshphere is the best choice.

The pedal is quite pricey, but there are other excellent Leslie simulators out there. The ever-reliable Boss makes the RT-20 Rotary Ensemble double pedal, which is possibly the coolest pedal Boss ever made, thanks to its stunning graphic view of the virtual rotors. It actually has a guitar/ keyboard switch, to optimize the sound according to which instrument you play. It does a great job at sounding like a Leslie, and You Tube is full of demo videos of it. Not all of them very watchable…but this guy does a good job at showing how useful the pedal can be for keyboardists who want to nail the Leslie sound.

Looking at a lower price range, you can still find great Leslie-sounding pedals: the Line 6 Roto Machine and the Behringer Rotary Machine are great.

Other Effects

Of course, keyboard players will be interested in other types of effects as well, and that’s why Dolphin Music has created a new Keyboard FX category with a good selection of FX pedals that can certainly add new flavours to your sound. Like Reuben Wu, who plays keyboards with Ladytron in the photograph above, a good option is to add reverb and distortion to the keyboard sound. In the pic, the Ladytron keyboard player is using a Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail, a Boss Overdrive (on the floor) and what appears to be a Vox Cooltron pedal.

Distortion pedals are great, when used to “dirt” your keyboard sound…though you’ll have to be careful with the gain setting, as too much distortion can make everything sound horrible!

Reverb pedals will add a very interesting new dimension to your keyboard sound…when used with delay, you can create amazing sounds.

Usually, modulation effects go down really well with keyboards: besides Leslie simulatiors, if you try chorus, flange or phasing effects you can certainly find a great array of interesting sounds.

Of course, in order to fully appreciate the use of FX pedals with your keyboard, you’ll also need to have it plugged to a keyboard amp. If you play live in a band, you’ll find that using effect pedals make it much more interesting, and you’ll even be able to make your guitarist jealous of your sound!

So visit Dolphin’s new Keyboard FX Pedals section and find a great new accessory for your keyboard!



  1. Hello there,

    Thanks for this wonderful article but can you guide me to any online article/forums/tutorials that shows me how to connect my guitar pedals to the keyboard?

    Thanks again 🙂

  2. Use the output on the keyboard just as you would a guitar.

  3. I’m playing a korg m50 and wanting a better organ sound,something like a deep purple rock organ. It has built-in effects but I think I need more. Any suggestions?Will a pedal help?

  4. A keyboard headphone or line-out voltage is 1-4volts rms (and low impedance). How the heck is a guitar pedal that is set for guitar output of millivolts up to 1 volt rms (and high impedance) NOT going to be overloaded, mismatch impedance and lose timbre (no bass, in my case) like my BlackBox effects box does. The input impedance of my blackbox is spec 370k and my Yamaha keyboard headphone-out is around 30-60 ohms. Huh ?? I’m presently hacking the Yamaha circuit-board intending to wire from the keyboard preamp circuit to a stereo jack socket for a high impedance low voltage output. Why have you not considered this issue ? If professionals know a trick to match keyboard to guitar effects pedals why not tell ?

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